Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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AgarikaJ
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Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by AgarikaJ » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am

As it so happened, while I was discussing an aspect of interpreting the Dhamma on a public discussion forum, I was reprimanded by another poster to not ask him to do something which would break a Vinaya rule (which I would not have done knowingly, but it does not matter in this context).

To this point in time, this other participant in the discussion was taken to be a layman just as me. With his 'pulling rank' by indicating that he might have Gone Forth (thereby making any criticism and discussion look unwholesome retroactively), a question about Sila has arisen in me:

If this person indeed is a monastic or somebody following all rules in the Vinaya voluntarily, would he not have to follow the rules regarding the wearing of robes?
As this happened in an online context, and we are talking about the spirit of the rules, not their legalistic interpretation, would that not mean that a monastic should make his status known beforehand by mentioning that he is a Bikkhu, in the same way that a monk would make his status known to laypeople when wandering out of his monastery?

And, going further, would a monk even be able to choose any anonymous user name, or should he not properly use his given Dhamma name?

Should not monastics and laypeople both be protected from accumulating Bad Kamma by knowing beforehand with whom they are interacting, so as not to burden each other inadvertently with potentially unwholesome thoughts and actions?

Please discuss purely with regard to Sila as understood in the Theravadan sense and in the sense of it being a theoretical question, detached from the personalities who might have been involved.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

WorldTraveller
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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by WorldTraveller » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:03 am

AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
As it so happened, while I was discussing an aspect of interpreting the Dhamma on a public discussion forum, I was reprimanded by another poster to not ask him to do something which would break a Vinaya rule (which I would not have done knowingly, but it does not matter in this context).

To this point in time, this other participant in the discussion was taken to be a layman just as me. With his 'pulling rank' by indicating that he might have Gone Forth (thereby making any criticism and discussion look unwholesome retroactively), a question about Sila has arisen in me:
Oh! D* is actually a monastic? If he stays anonymous, I think he shouldn't go into rank pulling to suppress or raise fear on others.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
If this person indeed is a monastic or somebody following all rules in the Vinaya voluntarily, would he not have to follow the rules regarding the wearing of robes?
As this happened in an online context, and we are talking about the spirit of the rules, not their legalistic interpretation, would that not mean that a monastic should make his status known beforehand by mentioning that he is a Bikkhu, in the same way that a monk would make his status known to laypeople when wandering out of his monastery?

And, going further, would a monk even be able to choose any anonymous user name, or should he not properly use his given Dhamma name?
Perhaps, due to privacy reasons a monk or a layperson might chose an anonymous user name as you, me and many others doing.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
Should not monastics and laypeople both be protected from accumulating Bad Kamma by knowing beforehand with whom they are interacting, so as not to burden each other inadvertently with potentially unwholesome thoughts and actions?
Better we protect our 3 doors against whoever as they will generate unwholesome karma whether our karma (actions) are directed towards a monk or a layperson.
“Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a canonical tradition, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’”
- Kālāma-sutta

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by Mkoll » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:24 am

A very good question. IMO, a monastic should make known that they are a monastic. In real life, this is obvious as they are wearing robes, as you mentioned, and have a certain demeanor. Online, they must take the initiative to make this known. And indeed, they should IMO.

In my experience, all of the monastics I can recall seeing online have made their status obvious at the outset by their username, avatar, and/or reputation. On this forum, we have the good examples of Venerables Dhammanando, Gavesako, and Pesala (forgive me for forgetting and thus omitting others). I've never seen a monastic "pulling rank" in the blatant way you describe. Personally, I would skeptical of such a person.
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So open up what's covered up,
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by AgarikaJ » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:28 am

WorldTraveller wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:03 am
Perhaps, due to privacy reasons a monk or a layperson might chose an anonymous user name as you, me and many others doing.
This was the reason why I would have wished this topic discussed as a theoretical application of Sila, in the Theravadan sense (and also not related to any real person).

I would think, maybe wrongly, that 'Privacy Issues' have little application with the regard to a monastic; at least the Buddha seems to have laid down no rules which would allow monks to protect their privacy and be secretive with their identity.

The Vinaya at least contains rules how exactly their robes have to be colored and from which material they shall be, to prevent mixing up the followers of the Buddha with other robe-wearing people of the time. It is quite obvious that he did not want them to be anonymous parts of the masses of laypeople.

Mind, I am extending/confounding those rules to mean something maybe also not intended by the Buddha, so I am asking for clarification.
WorldTraveller wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:03 am
Better we protect our 3 doors against whoever as they will generate unwholesome karma whether our karma (actions) are directed towards a monk or a layperson.
Is this true however? To my understanding, unwholesome actions directed against a monk carry with it a much higher penalty of Bad Kamma, while acting wholesomely towards them creates merit in a way that doing good deeds towards random laypeople simply doesn't. Else it would make little sense for monks to go on an alms round or robes being donated to them as acts of special merit-making.

My only consolation is -- if I interpret Sila correctly -- as I acted out of not knowing, my intention/motivation was simply ignorant and therefore would count as if this Bikkhu was not one.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by WorldTraveller » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:24 pm

May be our DW Admins can create an option for color codes (bhikkhus and novices separately) for User name when a monastics register. That might inform lay members that this member is a monk, and also it's easy for bhikkhhus and novices when interacting with each other. Also, that might stop some novices appearing here just after a short time of putting robes pretending to be senior monks.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:28 am
I would think, maybe wrongly, that 'Privacy Issues' have little application with the regard to a monastic; at least the Buddha seems to have laid down no rules which would allow monks to protect their privacy and be secretive with their identity.
Unless something like there's a monk who lives in a non-Buddhists surrounding where his identity might cause some harm or hostility (very rare, I guess).

However, I recall meeting a monk some years back in a different forum. He seems sincere and knowledgeable but kept his identity hidden. He answered to my PM saying that the reason for that was, his views accepted in the West but not in the monastery he ordained and stays. He said, if the abbot knows, he will be kicked out.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:28 am
The Vinaya at least contains rules how exactly their robes have to be colored and from which material they shall be, to prevent mixing up the followers of the Buddha with other robe-wearing people of the time. It is quite obvious that he did not want them to be anonymous parts of the masses of laypeople.
That seems a valid point. But the online exposure is much border than just walking to the town near the monastery.
“Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a canonical tradition, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’”
- Kālāma-sutta

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by StormBorn » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:40 pm

WorldTraveller wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:24 pm
May be our DW Admins can create an option for color codes (bhikkhus and novices separately) for User name when a monastics register. That might inform lay members that this member is a monk, and also it's easy for bhikkhhus and novices when interacting with each other. Also, that might stop some novices appearing here just after a short time of putting robes pretending to be senior monks.
Good suggestion.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:28 am
WorldTraveller wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:03 am
Better we protect our 3 doors against whoever as they will generate unwholesome karma whether our karma (actions) are directed towards a monk or a layperson.
Is this true however? To my understanding, unwholesome actions directed against a monk carry with it a much higher penalty of Bad Kamma, while acting wholesomely towards them creates merit in a way that doing good deeds towards random laypeople simply doesn't. Else it would make little sense for monks to go on an alms round or robes being donated to them as acts of special merit-making.

My only consolation is -- if I interpret Sila correctly -- as I acted out of not knowing, my intention/motivation was simply ignorant and therefore would count as if this Bikkhu was not one.
A reading in MN 142 would suggest, the deciding factors actually are “sīla, samādhi, paññā” but not whether the recipient of your actions (blame or offer food) is a layperson or a monk. In the sutta, an ascetic with jhāna is more worthy than a virtuous common worldling monk.
Animals – 100 fold returns
Unvirtuous common worldling – 1,000 fold returns
Virtuous common worldling – 100,000 fold returns
Ascetics with jhāna – 10,000,000,000 fold returns
Sotāpanna, Sakadāgāmī, Anāgāmī, Arhant, Pacceka Buddha, Buddha – incalculable returns
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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by AgarikaJ » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:53 pm

WorldTraveller wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:24 pm
May be our DW Admins can create an option for color codes (bhikkhus and novices separately) for User name when a monastics register. That might inform lay members that this member is a monk, and also it's easy for bhikkhhus and novices when interacting with each other.
I thought a good while about how or if I should react, so I am already heartened that I am not standing alone in my confusion on how I would handle such a situation with the necessary virtue in the future.

Therefore I would be appreciative of such a motion. I have written a PM to retrofuturist; maybe he sees merit in this idea, or maybe he doesn't.

In either case, my understanding was improved, so I am thankful for that, @WorldTraveller and @Mkoll.

:anjali:
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by rightviewftw » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:06 pm

i am curious about which rules would be broken by participating in a discussion online. id imagine more monks would participate if able to do so anonymously. i don't think monks should need to dox themselves in order to discuss things online and i suspect that monks might be hesitant to make their views publicly known for that reason because they don't want to become known as "that monk who was shown to be wrong" or just making their interpretations known in general as it might affect their livelihood to a great extent if other monks were to see that they hold views contradictory to their own ie.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
How to meditate: Anapanasati, Satipatthana.
Intro to General Semantics
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Parallel Dhammapada Reading
Chinese to Eng Dhp
"The statements; 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media is it the case that there is anything else?' '.. is it the case that there is not anything else .. is it the case that there both is & is not anything else .. is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' objectify non-objectification. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes."

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by AgarikaJ » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:16 pm

StormBorn wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:40 pm
A reading in MN 142 would suggest, the deciding factors actually are “sīla, samādhi, paññā” but not whether the recipient of your actions (blame or offer food) is a layperson or a monk. In the sutta, an ascetic with jhāna is more worthy than a virtuous common worldling monk.
It is good that you quote MN142, @StormBorn. This Sutta actually made my understanding stronger that, when giving merit, one gives to the cloth, not the individual monastic (eg. to the whole Sangha instead of just a certain most-preferred Bikkhu). It is intended this way by the Buddha.
"In times to come there will be members of the spiritual family merely by virtue of wearing ocher cloth around their necks; but they are unethical and of bad character. People will give gifts to those unethical people in the name of the Saṅgha. Even then, I say, a teacher’s offering bestowed on the Saṅgha is incalculable and immeasurable. But I say that there is no way a personal offering can be more fruitful than one bestowed on a Saṅgha.
And while you might be right that giving an offering to one ascetic with Jhana could be worth more than that to a unvirtuous monk, Kamma-wise, the giver would need to know the status of the recipient for that to happen (in the same way he likely would be able to differentiate between an animal and a human, "Now, Ānanda, gifts to the following persons may be expected to yield the following returns. To an animal, a hundred times. To an unethical ordinary person, a thousand. To an ethical ordinary person, a hundred thousand. To an outsider free of sensual desire, 10,000,000,000." ...).

For a layperson -- who due to lacking direct experience of the Dhamma would not know the difference either way between one who has achieved Jhana(s) and one who has not -- it should not make a difference, as the Sutta goes on to say:
"When an ethical person with trusting heart gives a proper gift to unethical persons, trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, that offering is purified by the giver." ... "When an ethical person with trusting heart gives a proper gift to ethical persons, trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, I declare that gift is abundantly fruitful."
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by Zom » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:41 pm

And while you might be right that giving an offering to one ascetic with Jhana could be worth more than that to a unvirtuous monk, Kamma-wise, the giver would need to know the status of the recipient for that to happen
This is not so. If you kill an arahant without knowing that he is an arahant - you still 100% go to hell after death. Same with good kamma. If you gave to a monk who is an arahant (and you don't know that) - your kamma fruit will be huge. SN 3.20 shows that clearly.

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by AgarikaJ » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:47 pm

rightviewftw wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:06 pm
i am curious about which rules would be broken by participating in a discussion online. id imagine more monks would participate if able to do so anonymously. i don't think monks should need to dox themselves in order to discuss things online and i suspect that monks might be hesitant to make their views publicly known for that reason because they don't want to become known as "that monk who was shown to be wrong" or just making their interpretations known in general as it might affect their livelihood to a great extent if other monks were to see that they hold views contradictory to their own ie.
I did not ask if rules were broken by monastics participating in a discussion, @rightviewftw. Additionally I think it should matter little to them if their views were corrected by one's more wise, as this would be improving their achievement... the whole reason for coming to such a board in the first place? Do such petty personality conflicts even matter to monks who feel safe in their practice?

What I worried about, and maybe I did not make my point clear enough, is the danger that monastics might get offended by laypeople addressing them ignorantly, or -- much, much worse! -- a layperson in their insensitivity for proper conduct accidentally causing the compromise of their discipline.

I would think that the Kammic consequences of such mix-ups could be severe.

In my case, what I asked of the Bikkhu would have in the worst case entailed a Pārājika offense, or so I was made to assume by him. So this would not have been a laughing matter any way you look at it and I am quite horrified by what I would have caused needlessly and easily preventable.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by DNS » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:55 pm

rightviewftw wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:06 pm
i am curious about which rules would be broken by participating in a discussion online.
I agree with this. What rules would have been broken by the monk simply for participating in a discussion? Even if there is some dispute, disagreements, that is okay, monks are not prohibited from debating issues. In fact, it is probably good merit for monks to participate in online discussions, teaching the Dhamma, answering questions of new comers, etc.

We don't have guru-worship in Theravada, so even if there is some doctrinal dispute with a layperson and it is hashed out in discussion, I don't see anything wrong with that either.

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by rightviewftw » Mon Oct 29, 2018 6:46 pm

AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:47 pm
the whole reason for coming to such a board in the first place? Do such petty personality conflicts even matter to monks who feel safe in their practice?
My personal impression based on quite limited amount of insight into that monastic world is that there is a good amount of monk politics. IE some people might hold one teacher in a very high regard and not want to live with people who do not share the same views. I don't want to talk particular examples but imo the Sangha is more or less of an institution that demands a certain degree of conformity and diplomacy i think.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:47 pm
What I worried about, and maybe I did not make my point clear enough, is the danger that monastics might get offended by laypeople addressing them ignorantly, or -- much, much worse! -- a layperson in their insensitivity for proper conduct accidentally causing the compromise of their discipline
Well, i think that there is potential to get offended in most but it is not the offending party that is responsible for another's breach of discipline, everybody is responsible for their own actions and reactions.

In general when interacting with people on Buddhist boards i try to be polite and restrained. There might be Ariyan householders on the boards as well so restrain is good regardless of whom one is talking to and let alone ariyan one should have sympathy for all beings. It is hard sometimes but i don't worry about it too much, i tend to apologize if i think i was wrong.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:47 pm
In my case, what I asked of the Bikkhu would have in the worst case entailed a Pārājika offense, or so I was made to assume by him. So this would not have been a laughing matter any way you look at it and I am quite horrified by what I would have caused needlessly and easily preventable.
I will make a guess that we are talking about the Parajika;
Not to claim attainments of stages of pure mental concentration that have not been achieved.
As i see it if you asked a Bhikkhu if he had some attainment you are not doing anything wrong but he is defeated only if he falsely claims to have achieved it.

Other than that it is bad to encourage sex, murder and theft but that goes for everyone. I personally try not to encourage unwholesome behavior, be it breaking precepts or creating obstacles.I do my best but i have in the past in anger told a guy to "go eat a chocolate" and it is definitely one of the lows as far as my participation goes.
How to meditate: Anapanasati, Satipatthana.
Intro to General Semantics
Factors & Perceptions

Parallel Dhammapada Reading
Chinese to Eng Dhp
"The statements; 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media is it the case that there is anything else?' '.. is it the case that there is not anything else .. is it the case that there both is & is not anything else .. is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' objectify non-objectification. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes."

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:11 pm

Greetings,

We allow bhikkhus here either to be public about their ordination status or to remain anonymous, as they see fit. The easiest way to make one's ordination status known is via their username, but the signature function would work well too.

We have seen models elsewhere that have put extra requirements on bhikkhus to enable them to be more clearly differentiated, but we are merely thankful for the presence of bhikkhus, so we leave it to their discretion how and if they wish to make themselves known.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: Anonymous (online) Bikkhus

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:28 am

AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
As it so happened, while I was discussing an aspect of interpreting the Dhamma on a public discussion forum, I was reprimanded by another poster :thumbsup: to not ask him to do something which would break a Vinaya rule (which I would not have done knowingly, but it does not matter in this. To this point in time, this other participant in the discussion was taken to be a layman just as me. With his 'pulling rank' by indicating that he might have Gone Forth :roll: (thereby making any criticism and discussion look unwholesome retroactively), a question about Sila has arisen in me:
A reading of the Pali suttas gives the following impressions:

1. The Buddha and his bhikkhus rarely taught higher Dhamma to laypeople.

2. There were some but relatively very few enlightened lay people.

3. Declarations of enlightenment,including to lay people, appear very common in the suttas, which raises the question of the dating of the Vinaya Rules about non-declaration by bhikkhus to laypeople.

It follows, since it appears Buddhism basically places little emphasis upon Enlightened Laypeople (and thus made no specific Vinaya for them), as I recall was previously suggested, we should start a topic about why & why not declarations of attainments should be made.

:group:
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
My only consolation is -- if I interpret Sila correctly --
Looks like no consolation prize. "Sila" is not for the purpose of demonizing and victimizing others.
AgarikaJ wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:40 am
Should not monastics and laypeople both be protected from accumulating Bad Kamma by knowing beforehand with whom they are interacting, so as not to burden each other inadvertently with potentially unwholesome thoughts and actions?
It seems to be the most basic Buddhist teaching, including so many given by Ajahn Chah, that individual minds create their own kamma. Others do not pollute our mind. :geek:
160. One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.

161. The evil a witless man does by himself, born of himself and produced by himself, grinds him as a diamond grinds a hard gem.

165. By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .budd.html
Ajahn Chah wrote:Here is an example. Suppose one morning you're walking to work and a man yells abuse and insults at you from across the street. As soon as you hear this abuse your mind changes from its usual state. You don't feel so good, you feel angry and hurt. That man walks around abusing you night and day. When you hear the abuse, you get angry, and even when you return home you're still angry because you feel vindictive, you want to get even.

A few days later another man comes to your house and calls out, "Hey! That man who abused you the other day, he's mad, he's crazy! Has been for years! He abuses everybody like that. Nobody takes any notice of anything he says." As soon as you hear this you are suddenly relieved. That anger and hurt that you've pent up within you all these days melts away completely. Why? Because you know the truth of the matter now. Before, you didn't know, you thought that man was normal, so you were angry at him. Understanding like that caused you to suffer. As soon as you find out the truth, everything changes: "Oh, he's mad! That explains everything!" When you understand this you feel fine, because you know for yourself. Having known, then you can let go. If you don't know the truth you cling right there. When you thought that man who abused you was normal you could have killed him. But when you find out the truth, that he's mad, you feel much better. This is knowledge of the truth.


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